End of days or the beginning of new ways of seeing? Fittingly, Lucien Castaing-Taylor and Véréna Paravel's Leviathan, an all-senses-consuming chronicle of a fishing trawler, takes its title from the sea beast described in the Book of Job, lines from which constitute the film's epigraph: "He makes the depths churn like a boiling cauldron and stirs up the sea like a pot of ointment." Here, the roiling of the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New Bedford, Massachusetts, suggests nothing less than the apocalypse. And yet, in going far beyond observational-documentary mode into full, relentless, estranging immersion, Castaing-Taylor and Paravel have created a work that has the power to ignite long-dormant synapses. (Like those perhaps apocryphal viewers who screamed and ran to the back of the room while watching the Lumière brothers' 1895 Arrival at a Train at La Ciotat Station, I, too, was often terrified-- pleasingly-- by what I saw.) Framed in crisp, frequently majestic compositions, Leviathan lists and pitches, always in ceaseless, disorienting motion; its point of view rapidly shifts from fisherman to seagull to gasping fish to flotsam and jetsam several leagues below. The density of aural and visual stimuli overwhelms-- and liberates. Plunging viewers into the thick of chaos, Leviathan explodes the antiquated paradigm of the documentary or ethnographic film, whose mission has traditionally been to educate or elucidate, to create something that seizes us, never letting us forget just how disordered the world is. This may be the greatest lesson any nonfiction film can teach us.
Lucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena ParavelDeclan Conneely, Johnny Gatcombe, Adrian Guillette, Brian Jannelle, Clyde Lee, Arthur Smith, Christopher SwampsteadLucien Castaing-Taylor, Verena ParavelCinema Guild